Examining the relationship between coping strategies and physiological responsiveness following exposure to traumatic visual stimuli

The present study explored the relationship between coping strategy and physiological responsiveness following exposure to traumatic visual stimuli. A total of 30 psychology undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 27 were selected to participate in this study. The participants were asked to view images of traumatic events while heart rate was monitored using a pulse oximeter. The Brief COPE self-report questionnaire was used to measure individual coping strategies. Functional and dysfunctional coping composite scales were created from the 14 scales of the Brief COPE, but only the former demonstrated sufficient internal reliability. Differences in responsiveness based upon the coping strategy used were examined via multiple linear regression analysis. The use of specific coping strategies, as indicated by the Brief COPE, did not predict heart rate changes. A weak correlation that neared significance was observed between functional coping and heart rate after rest. This finding suggests that individuals who score higher on functional coping tend to have a higher heart rate after rest than those who score lower on functional coping. Individuals with higher levels of dysfunctional coping tended to rate images as less distressing than those with lower levels of dysfunctional coping. These findings may be explained by the fact that the use of certain dysfunctional coping strategies (e.g., denial) may cause individuals to rate images as less distressing. Similarly, higher heart rate after rest could be explained by the absence of denial.